HPA: The View From Midway Through 2021
By Debra Kaufman
In 2020, HPA and the industry it represents adapted to the crisis of an unprecedented global pandemic. Now, halfway through 2021, the media and entertainment industry has seen a tremendous resurgence of activity and HPA has been leading the way in advancing trends that came to the fore during those months, from proving remote workflows to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
HPA president Seth Hallen describes some of the highlights of the year, beginning with the virtual HPA Tech Retreat while looking forward to what’s ahead. The HPA team spent months building a customized virtual platform. “The theme was COVID and all the technologies developed and advanced during the pandemic to enable production,” he says. “We solicited videos from people trying to solve the lockdown problem and received a few hundred video presentations sent in from all over the world.” HPA also put an emphasis on recreating the social, communal events of past Tech Retreats. “We had highly successful interactive events so the community could spend time together,” said Hallen. “It was our goal to make sure attendees could interact and enjoy themselves. Sponsored events were also very successful.”
The Supersession is always a key event of HPA Tech Retreat and this year’s was no exception. Joachim “JZ” Zell, who led last year’s “The Lost Lederhosen” case study event, headed up this year’s as well, again focusing on cloud-based production. This year’s was even bigger, and more ambitious. JZ wrangled filmmaker teams from around the world who produced six short films in Hollywood, London, Brisbane, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Mexico City and Dubai. To see the creative excellence of these filmmakers, and how some of the latest technology powered their vision, was fantastic.”
On Day 2 of Super Session, Leon Silverman hosted the live end-to-end cloud workflow project in partnership with MovieLabs. The purpose of the “live without a net” presentation was to demonstrate the production and finishing of a clip that included camera capture, editing, color correction, VFX and sound. Michael Cioni from Frame.io was on location and captured camera footage that went straight to the cloud, which then moved to picture editor Barry Goch, colorist Ethan Schwartz from Light Iron, VFX artist Danny Yoon from Mr. Wolf, and sound mixer Ryan Frias from Skywalker Sound, all while the content remained in the cloud. Amazon Web Services, Eluv.io, BeBop and Gunpowder also played important roles in support of this groundbreaking demonstration. HPA 2021 attendance reached over 800 people, from all over the world during the event and hundreds more online, after. This year, HPA connected membership with Tech Retreat attendance – and more than 1,200 new members joined. “We got a lot of amazing feedback that many attendees thought it was the best virtual event they’d attended,” says Hallen.
Another highlight for Hallen is HPA ALL. On May 24, HPA launched the HPA ALL initiative, which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion. HPA ALL IN – a four-day virtual event which brought the community together to explore these critical issues. “At the HPA board, we’ve had many discussions about this,” says Hallen, who notes that HPA’s DEI committee is led by members Renard Jenkins and Kari Grubin. “But we hadn’t acted on it in a meaningful way until this year. By launching HPA ALL, we put all these issues on the table.” The multi-faceted event included a keynote from noted executive coach Rajkumari Neogy, who also led a four-week training on the subject for HPA members. Topics of these incredible sessions, Understanding Humans@Work, included inclusive leadership, bridging the gender gap, and how to create a more equitable future for the next generation HPA’s Young Entertainment Professionals (YEP) were a key part of every HPA ALL event.
Speakers at HPA ALL included Avid chief executive Jeff Rosica; Dell Technologies’ lead of social justice advocacy and partnership Sarah Ramirez; experienced insight professional Alexandria E. Latimer, research manager for TV One; WarnerMedia senior vice president of enterprise inclusion, content strategy Samata Narra; Dolby Laboratories chief scientist/Stanford University adjunct professor Poppy Crum; WarnerMedia senior vice president Haile Owusu; Company 3 delivery coordinator Nicole Harmony Thrakulchavee, a 2021 YEP; Exceptional Minds executive director David Siegel; The Color of Autism Foundation executive director/founder Camille Proctor; Sim Post Los Angeles general manager Payton List; Xperi Corporation vice president content & strategy Loren Nielsen; and Prime Focus Technologies vice president/global head of marketing T Shobhana. HPA ALL attendees could also access related curated content from Tone Networks, a video-based learning and leadership development platform empowering female employees.
The HPA ALL event culminated with the League Awards, honoring individuals in our industry that show leadership in DEI: Universal Pictures’ vice president, creative technologies Annie Chang; ARRAY vice president of education & understanding Tammy Garnes; IMAX Corporation chief quality guru Patricia Keighley; MACRO founder/chief executive Charles D. King; and Ambidio founder Iris Wu.
This year’s YEPs group is “really engaged” and dynamic, notes Hallen. “We’re so impressed with the caliber of these young professionals,” he says. “They’re truly remarkable.” HPA is also at work planning the HPA Awards, which will take place in November. “As always, we are grateful about how much the community is supporting this event. We are on track to receive as many or more creative entry submissions as ever and we received more Engineering Excellence submissions than past years. Judging for Engineering takes place on August 10th and I encourage everyone to tune in to the virtual judging sessions,” says Hallen. “And as ever, the talent and their work we are seeing is stunning. There is a lot of love for these awards.”
And more is in store in the coming months. “Women In Post and NET are planning events in the next few months, and plans are well in progress for the 2022 HPA Tech Retreat. The HPA board is meeting every week to have “spirited discussions” about all the activities for the rest of the year and beyond. “The level of support we’ve gotten in the last year from our members, corporate members, sponsors and volunteers has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” says Hallen. “This is heart-warming and it’s what keeps us all engaged. Clearly the HPA continues to bring great value to our industry and the HPA Board and volunteer committees are very grateful for the opportunity to continue to contribute to this community that we all love so much.”